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Louisiana Power & Light Hardcover – July, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This first novel by the author of a well-received story collection, The Way That Water Enters Stone , is a wacky Southern Gothic set in small-town Louisiana. Billy Wayne Fontana is the sole survivor of his oddball line of marginal folk, legendary in this backwater for being the most-often-executed and sickest white family in the Delta; and when he acquires a priestly vocation it seems likely he will be the last Fontana. While confessing young Earlene deBastrop, however, he is smitten and marries her; unfaithfulness with Tami Lynne follows, then--miraculously--a second marriage and the birth of two boys, one with a rocky heart, the other a cripple. How perplexed Billy Wayne, intending always the best but fatally impulsive, brings disaster upon himself and his little family is the center of the tale, but it is filled out with a host of ribald walk-on characters: George Dinwaddie, Pakistani exile owner of the Palms Motel and would-be assassin; Vietnam vet Angelo Candella, whose route to the statehouse in Baton Rouge is as a vegetable in a wheelchair; and Dencil Currence, who aspires to be Mr. Reddy Kilowatt for the power company. The narrative is oddly schizophrenic, alternating abruptly between farce and elegy, with some peculiar authorial interpolations ("So where are we?" "Now that we've got up a moderate head of narrative steam," etc.). And Dufresne cannot seem to escape an unfortunate edge of condescension toward his characters from time to time. It is a skillful, often lively performance, but one that leaves a disconcerting aftertaste.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

For Billy Wayne Fontana, guilt is as natural "as gravity," but he hopes to end the curse on his genetically tainted clan by adopting priestly celibacy. Unfortunately, hearing a young woman's confession propels him into an impulsive marriage and sparks a new series of tragic events. The narrative meanders lazily, digresses into anecdotes about earlier unfortunate Fontanas, and then leaps forward with startling revelations. In this first novel, the author of a critically acclaimed story collection (The Way That Water Enters Stone, Norton, 1991) distills high comedy from intense pain, philosophical insight from bayou murkiness. Dufresne enlarges his comedy by using the Monroe Library Great Books discussion group as a perceptive but highly eccentric community chorus and by offering a delightfully acerbic satire of Louisiana politics ("kakistocracy," or "government by the worst") as backdrop. Highly recommended for popular and literary collections alike.
Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 306 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton; 1st edition (July 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393036480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393036480
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #965,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

I will read another of Mr. Dufrense’s books.
YoyoMitch
The book is funny, and having read almost everything John Irving has written, I can see some parallels there.
B. Michael Thorne
By the end of the book I just didn't care and even skimmed the Epilogue just to be 'done' with it.
OBX Lover

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By mindycarpenter@hotmail.com on June 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
I found this to be the masculine version of the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Dufresne has written gorgeously flawed characters who sparkle and tarnish themselves on every page. These are the people small towns are made of--or at least, the people we imagine exist through wonderful southern novelists. It's a slow and luxurious read, like a humid summer day, but worth the patience. The ending, despite my predictions, was a surprising and poignant finale.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 1996
Format: Paperback
The story of the folks of the fictional town of Limoges, Louisiana,
a place where one family's pre-destined ill fate stirs up drama after drama.

The characters DuFresne creates are so true to life in their
matter-of-fact emotional extremes and absurdities that we are
pulled into each and every one of their lives.

With unforgettable characters like Moonpie and the tragic
family lineage he has shouldered, the book is the quickest
most well-written prose I have read in a long time.

Laughing and crying through countless dramatic encounters
the story's charactersgo through, I found myself a resident of
Limoges for three months after I finished reading the book.

One of the best qualities of DuFresne's writing lies in his
ability to display humor, being one of the most important and warm
human characteristics, as an instinctive defense mechanisms in
playful and wonderfully surprising ways.

I read this book close to seven months ago but can not get
the charcters out of my mind. I would like not to divulge
much of the story line since that would detract from your
reading experience.

Read it and you will remind yourself why you love literature
be proud that we have such imaginative literary writers
living in America during such turbulent times.

Isn't it time all of us picked up a book that was NOT a
national bestseller and read it for the sheer enjoyment
of the playful words and literary merit?

Reminiscent of Nabokov with a dash of John Irving and
Tennesse Williams with the surreal literary quality of
Paul Auster, "Louisiana Power & Light" should be a most
enjoyable read for all of you that still believe in
literature and its inherent love of life.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jim Kaznosky on March 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
...Billy Wayne Fontana is obsessed with escaping the fate of his ancestors-a quirky, unlucky life, with a rather brutal and bizarre death. Upon giving up the priesthood for marriage, he believes that he can avoid his fate. Its a southern gothic romp with a humorous edge to it. You don't have to read through many pages before you can see the wit that Dufresne is capable of.
I hate to say that a book is an excellent first novel. It should be based on its own merits, but this is a certainly an excellent first novel. I look forward to reading more of his writing.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By M. Moore Davis on July 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
I think John Dufresne's first work -Louisiana Power and Light- was a fabulous read. I think anyone who doesn't like the book is from the North and doesn't understand it. This book is about people we KNOW down here in the South. It touches on our own family members and that is why it is so poignant. Truly a good book... I found myself laughing out loud several times. Looking forward to reading all Dufresne's works.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bob Nolin on February 14, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Loved this book, tore through it in about two and half days. That's fast, for me. I notice a lot of reviews by readers (not professionals, that is) who seem to think Dufresne is disparaging his characters. Mocking them, one said. I don't see that at all. I wouldn't have finished it, let alone loved it, if I thought that were the case. The book, for me, is about how hard it is to find your way in life, your direction. Do you have a destiny? Are you under a curse? How much is under your power anyway? I thought it was a humble, sometimes funny, look at the human condition. Southern literature tends to take the "our whole damn family is cursed" approach, and for years I avoided this book, despite its reputation, because it sounded like just another Faulkner wanna-be. One reading of Sound and Fury back in high school was enough for me. I've read that story, no interest in reading it again by someone else. But I believe Dufresne is looking at this phenomenon and holding it up to the light. To use the title of his new book on writing, he asks "Is Life Like This?"

This book has me re-thinking my position on mainstream fiction. Though I still don't know why the form always seems to include violent death(s).

Anyway, the author isn't laughing at us. He's laughing with us. Perhaps he's not truly a "Southern" writer. Since he's from Massachusetts, I guess he's disqualified, in the minds of some. But I don't know if that's even the point. It's just a blurb on the back of the book to help the potential buyer pigeonhole the book before him. Marketing, that's all. Pay no mind.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 1997
Format: Paperback
Working in the power industry myself, I made the assumption that the utility in the title would play a significant role in the book. I was mistaken. It does provide a touchstone for this novel of birth and death, comedy and tragedy, and love and light in the bayou country of Monroe, LA.
Billy Wayne is indeed a tragi-comic figure for that I won't soon forget. He moves with his own internal tides and ebbs and flows among the women in his life (Sister Helen, Earlene, Tami Lynne). None seem to satisfy his search for mother/lover/wife. He makes the commitment, then backs away into his shell, fearful of the Fontana's legendary "curse" to fail.

Having had no family to speak of, he is unfamiliar in his role as first, husband to Earlene, then lover and husband to Tami Lynne. Worst of all, in my opinion, is his failing as father to his youngest son Moon Pie. His paternal instinct kicked into overdrive with his first son. But when Moon Pie came along, he could not handle the requirements of family life.

The book moves as easily as the bayous that surround Monroe. Subplots that begin to drag are remedied by short chapters and dialogue. Minor characters play out their roles in the sidelights, but they still affect the Fontanas and friends.

And yet, if Billy Wayne had turned toward his "real" light in the beginning, as Angelo's eyes did in the end, instead of aspiring to be an LP&L employee, I think this man could still be a part of Dufresne's literary landscape.
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